Barwood determined to finish in top half

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 11:53 19/02/2014

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Queenstown's Adam Barwood won't be dragging any extra expectations down the course with him when he makes his Olympic debut at Rosa Khutor tonight.

At just 21, the alpine skier has already spent nine seasons competing in the northern hemisphere and was New Zealand's alpine skier of the year in 2013.

He'll be targeting a finish in the top half of the field in tonight's giant slalom, before backing up in his more preferred slalom event on Sunday.

For the uninitiated, giant slalom includes more sweeping turns, while the slalom sees the skiers don protective gear to crash their way down the course.

"Slalom, at the moment, is my best event, but I enjoy GS as well. I haven't thought about where I want to finish in the field too much. If I'm in the top 50 per cent of the field and I can move up then I'll be pretty happy," he said.

Barwood said it was "surreal" to be at a Winter Olympics.

"The last couple of years I've made some bigger steps and become more competitive. I've put a lot into it and I wouldn't be here if it weren't for all the help I've gotten, especially from my parents."

Reigning world champion Ted Ligety, from the United States, will be the favourite for the gold medal in the giant slalom.

Meanwhile, a leg injury forced Wanaka's Byron Wells out of this morning's freeski halfpipe event.

The 21-year-old landed awkwardly during training earlier this week and initially thought he had broken a leg.

Team medical staff had hoped he would be ready for competition, but a frustrated Wells, who was still unable to walk or even get a ski boot on, was forced to withdraw.

"I'm completely devastated. I had my sights set on a podium finish and was determined to get out there and do it. I have spoken with my medical team, my family and other members of the New Zealand Olympic Team, and have made the decision to withdraw."

Father and coach Bruce Wells says he felt for Byron but acknowledged the injury was something to be expected in the high-risk freeski sports.

"They're jumping off huge walls of ice with cutting edge tricks and these are high risk. We're all disappointed the injury is significant enough to keep Byron from doing what he knows he can do well."

Wells, who was planning to support his brothers, Jossi and Beau-James, and team mate Lyndon Sheehan in the event, has only recently returned to full competition after an ongoing knee injury.

He finished fourth in the Olympic halfpipe test event in Rosa Khutor in February 2013.

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- The Southland Times

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